Did Apple just break the Steve Jobs golden rule?

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands in the Market

Innovation is not easy. We all look for those blue ocean ideas and game-changers that no one else can see. Most times when see them, we get scared. They look so different. Will they work?  Who knows. Incremental Innovation is easy. It is comfortable, similar to what we did last year, so let’s pull the trigger because we know it will work. The original iPhone was a game-changer. It looked so different, that even the main competitor laughed about it. (There is video footage somewhere).

The beauty of the original iPhone is that it was intuitive in design, simple enough for anyone to use.  From a technical view, it wasn’t innovative at all. From the consumer view, it was the most innovative product of the century. It was merely a copy-cat product that was bundled together in a much smarter consumer way. While everyone else in the category was inventing cool things and spending lots of time figuring out how this would work with consumers, Apple figured out what the consumer wanted and then went and collected and bundled all the current technologies into one simple phone.


This statement is what made Steve Jobs a Marketer among scientists. He understood that everything a Marketer does has to start and end with the consumer in mind. For a Marketer like me, this is half common sense and half motivational that I can project to Marketers.

Let me whisper something quietly. The only real reason we have brands is because the brand owners believe that they can make more money from investing in a brand, than they could if they just sold the product alone. Jobs was a billionaire beyond belief. Yet, the beauty of Apple is that while they are the richest company on the planet, until this week, they never let anyone know that was their end goal. They have always been on the side of the consumer. Always living by the golden rule of Apple: “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology. Not the other way around”.

No Headphone Jack

I have an iPhone 6, so I’m good for now. I am not seeing enough in the iPhone 7 that makes me want to jump. It’s purely an incremental play. Since I’m not in the market for a new phone, once I heard that it was fairly incremental, I barely paid attention. As I said above, pumping out incremental innovation is a necessity of business.

But then when I heard the new iPhone  did not have a headphone jack, I kinda cringed. There is no way the consumer was demanding that you get rid of the headphone jack. 

A couple of years ago, I started to see guys at the gym with headphones without a wire. What a great idea. That way it wouldn’t get in my way doing a bench press or on the elliptical machine. I went to the store and was like, “Woah, $100 more for wireless, I think I’ll wait”. Checking Best Buy’s website this morning, we can see that we can buy some nice Beats by Dr. Dre headphones for $129….

Screen Shot 2016-09-09 at 10.17.15 AM

While the same pair of WIRELESS headphones cost $229.

Screen Shot 2016-09-09 at 10.17.37 AM


I’m sure someone on the Apple team thinks this is a brilliant move: if we take away the headphone jack, we will make the entire planet go spend $229 on new headphones. That’s a bit like the bank that gave out a huge bonus to the person who came up with the 19.99% interest rate on your credit card, instead of 19.9%, because the extra decimal gave the bank made millions of dollars more. That is also brilliant. But both of these things are fairly disgusting. And almost too obvious that there is a complete “money grab”

Brand Plans 2016 Extract 2.001

The role of Marketing is to improve your brand HEALTH, which then can be stored and leveraged over time to drive longer term to drive more WEALTH for the brand. Sometimes, going after wealth in the short term, can actually take away from the overall heath of the brand. You have to believe that by driving the health that the wealth will come.

Apple’s lack of a headphone jack makes them look greedy for money. It is an annoyance to the consumers who love your brand. For those not willing to invest in new headphones, this is the solution that Apple is providing. Wow, that really just screams consumer friendly. It costs $40, and likely weighs 3x more than the phone. It will be great for consumers to carry that while they run.


It is completely fine for brands to make a lot of money. But the best Marketers never let consumers see that ugly side. And this one by Apple is pretty ugly. By the way, the Apple stock price first broke the $100 mark in September of 2012. Four years later, it is at trading at $104. It just might be time for Apple to invest in driving that brand health a bit higher.

I love Apple. I just want them to love me back.

Apple just failed big time, because they failed to start with the consumer experience and work back toward the technology. 

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At Beloved Brands, we promise to make your team of BRAND LEADERS smarter, so they produce smarter work that drives stronger brand results.

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  • Winning the Purchase Moment: Brand Leaders need to know how to move consumers on the path to purchase, by gaining entry into their consumers mind, help them test and decide and then experience so they buy again and become a brand fan.

We will make your team of Brand Leaders smarter so they can produce exceptional work that drives stronger brand results. We offer brand training on every subject in marketing, related to strategic thinking, analytics, brand planning, positioning, creative briefs, customer marketing and marketing execution. 

To contact us, email us at graham@beloved-brands.com or call us at 416-885-3911.You can also find us on Twitter @belovedbrands